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Erectile dysfunction is a common issue in the male population but treatment options may not be effective for everyone. Natural therapies are possible and one that should make a difference would be L-arginine. This is an NO precursor but does it work?

Erectile dysfunction is a common disease in society, and it is believed that about 20 percent of males suffer from moderate to severe ED [1]. In most cases, ED is a manifestation of other chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes or psychological issues like depression or anxiety [2]. Multiple treatment options are available to try to correct this disorder, but these treatment options have strong cross-reactivity with other medications and may render them too dangerous for patients to continue. Unfortunately, this may mean that a patient has to endure their ED to be treated for a more life-threatening condition [3]. Thankfully, natural treatment for erectile dysfunction is a possibility for these patients. Various vitamins and dietary supplements for ED can help improve erections without the same dangerous side effects that you may see with medications like sildenafil (Viagra). In a previous article, we have found out that DHEA may have a place in some scenarios when a patient has ED, but it was not the perfect supplement. Here, we will answer the question: does L-arginine help erectile dysfunction

What Does L-arginine Do?

On paper, the idea that L-arginine may be helpful when it comes to your ED makes sense. L-arginine is a natural precursor to nitric oxide (NO). This compound has several important physiological roles and can help your brain function as a neurotransmitter, has effect on the cardiac muscle tissue to help your heart pump blood and can act as a potent vasodilator. This means that it will open up blood vessels more to allow more blood to flow into a localized area. This is the effect we are hoping for as physicians when patients present with ED. We want more blood to pool into the penile tissue in order to sustain an erection.

In Western diets, we consume about 5 grams of L-arginine naturally each day in the foods that we eat. Studies show that up to 8 grams of L-arginine a day is physiologically tolerated without complications. [4]

Foods that have the highest natural levels of L-arginine can be found in the legume family. Peanuts, almonds and Brazilian nuts have some of the highest concentrations and patients wishing to take L-arginine naturally can eat these types of foods. Their high level of L-arginine content is a main reason why these nuts are marketed as being "heart-healthy." [5

Will it Help Your Erectile Dysfunction? 

Now that we have a basic understanding of what L-arginine is actually supposed to do, does L-arginine help erectile dysfunction? In one study, L-arginine was being tested as a monotherapy as a natural treatment for erectile dysfunction. In this investigation, 32 patients with mixed underlying causes of ED were given 3 tablets of 500 mg L-arginine daily for a period of 17 days. At the conclusion of the study, 17 percent of patients reported a significant improvement in their erectile potential compared to 20 percent from the placebo group. About 56 percent of patients reported some type of improvement and 27 percent cited no improvement or even worsening symptoms after the L-arginine monotherapy. [6]

Based on the results of this experiment, we can answer the question of "does L-arginine help erectile dysfunction as a monotherapy with a resounding "No!". 

Before we give up on L-arginine completely as one of the vitamins and dietary supplements for EDlet's see if L-arginine can be effective if it is given with another compound to improve its effect. In another investigation, patients were given a combination of L-arginine and pycnogenol to determine if these compounds used together could make a significant impact on the erection potential. As you already know, L-arginine is a precursor for NO but pycnogenol is another compound of the market that acts as a synthetic analogue to L-arginine and it also increased NO levels. In this investigation, 40 patients were enrolled and given this combination of medications for a 3-month period. During the first month, patients were only given 1.7 grams daily of an L-arginine supplement until pycnogenol was introduced during the second month. Patients were given two tablets of 40 mg pycnogenol daily until the third month when this dosage was increased to 3 tablets a day.

At the conclusion of this period, only 5 percent of patients reported an improvement in erectile function with just L-arginine. After the second month, however, this number improved to 80 percent of respondents. By the third month, 92.5 percent of patients reported they had satisfactory erections. [7]

When we revisit our guiding question, "does L-arginine help erectile dysfunction?" it is impossible to argue that L-arginine can not make a difference in patients' erectile function. Although L-arginine will not help as a monotherapy, when used in tandem with other NO agents like pycnogenol, patients will notice a significant improvement in their erectile potential without any noticeable side effects. 

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